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States Behind Schedule In Reducing Child Mortality

98 States Behind Schedule In Reducing Child Mortality, Unicef Study Reveals

Almost 100 countries are behind schedule in reaching the globally agreed goal to reduce the rate of child deaths by two-thirds by 2015, a study released today by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reveals.

If current trends continue, the study shows, the average death rate of children under the age of five will have fallen worldwide by only a quarter in the 25 years to 2015 - far short of the target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

While much of the industrialized world, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific is on target to achieve the MDG, many nations in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe lag far behind.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said there are 11 million preventable child deaths every year because far too many children still do not have access to basic services, such as health care, sanitation and clean water.

"It is incredible that in an age of technological and medical marvels, child survival is so tenuous in so many places, especially for the poor and marginalized. We can do better than this," she said.

Inadequate birthing conditions are responsible for the most preventable deaths: without skilled attendants during delivery or help for the mother, many babies fall victim almost immediately to infectious and parasitic diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and measles. Acute respiratory infections, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS are among the biggest causes.

"The world has the tools to improve child survival, if only it would use them," Ms. Bellamy said. She called for greater spending on vaccines, micro-nutrient supplements and insecticide-treated mosquito nets, which "don't cost much, and would save millions of children."

The study highlights the vast discrepancy in child mortality rates between rich and poor States. One out of every six children in sub-Saharan Africa die before they reach the age of five, compared to one in every 143 in the industrialized world.

Sierra Leone, despite a small improvement, retains the worst rates on the planet. In 2002 there were 284 deaths for every 1,000 births. The most successful nation is Sweden, which has cut its child mortality rate to three deaths per 1,000 births.

Overall, 90 countries - including 53 in the developing world - are on target to achieve the MDG, but another 98 developing nations trail behind.

In 11 States, the rates have actually worsened since 1990, partly because of HIV/AIDS. Those countries are Botswana, Cambodia, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

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